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Should Gambling Be Legalised in India?

Gambling is a principle inherent in human nature. [i]It is ever-present in our Indian society. Whether it is betting on horse races or animal fights on streets, people see it as a legitimate form of recreation. Despite betting on sports events like cricket matches is illegal in India, people tend to engage in betting on them and end up losing a lot of money. People get inveigled in the vicious cycle of gambling as they fail to understand when they should quit.

Gambling or Betting may sound like an evil trap, but it is not, if the players know how to play it patiently, and smartly. Society’s perspective towards gambling have swingeingly changed, in the last century, but the Indian laws have failed to emulate with them. In India, betting on horse races or lottery is legal, but the question that arises in our mind is that, should betting on all sports events of our country be legalised?
This article would talk about, whether gambling should be legalised in India or not and what rules and regulations authorities need to formulate to regulate the activity of gambling, if legalised.

Understanding The Concept Of Gambling

Gambling is taking part in a game or sports activities where the player risks something of monetary value, or money to win money or a prize. In gambling or betting the outcome of the game is uncertain and is down to chances. Gambling, in itself, is a wide term and there are many forms of it, like, lotteries, card games like poker, casinos, betting on sports events like a horse race or cricket etc., bingo and many more. Sometimes the gamblers are required to participate in the game while betting on it like in casinos or card games and sometimes, he/she may be restrained from any kind of active participation in the event in which he has a stake, like in horse races etc.

Why Legalise Gambling?

The reasons for legalising gambling are manifold. Since the Indian gambling market is very big and it is nearly impossible to root it out. Despite the fact that, it is an illegal activity, the authorities are unable to stop its operation. So, when you cannot outsmart your enemy, the best thing to do is to befriend it for your benefit. Legalising gambling will not only help in breaking off sources of black money but it will also generate a good amount of revenue for the state exchequer.

The unaccounted money earned from gambling activities is managed by the criminal syndicates which are spent on nefarious activities like terror financing. Legalising gambling will not only put a halt on it but also the money generated from betting and gambling can be used by the authorities for various constructive social schemes. According to the 2010 KPMG report, the estimated size of the Indian gambling market is more than 60 Billion USD. The legalisation of gambling activities will also lead to higher tax revenue.

In a country like India where millions of people are unemployed, a legal and effectively regulated gambling sector will generate large-scale employment opportunities. According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 120,000 people were employed by the private gambling sector.[ii] In the U.K., more than 1 Lakh people were employed in the gambling sector. In sports events like cricket, people tend to bet on it and the majority of time players go for fixing the matches, even though betting on it is illegal in India. If betting gets a legal permit, then there will be more transparency in such activities and it will also curb fixing of the matches as it will create a sense of fear of getting caught among the players and bookies.

Naysayers’ Viewpoint

Naysayers suggest that Gambling is morally wrong and is not ethically correct in the Indian context. They say that it is one of the reasons responsible for bankruptcy, addiction, loss of livelihood, divorce, crime. There are instances of people incurring huge losses in the game eventually leading to suicides.

Legalised gambling hurt and destroys those who are poor and disadvantaged people of the society. If gambling were illegal, then it would be difficult for the gambling industries to openly promote their casinos, lotteries, or any other gambling activities and exploit these people. Since gambling is portrayed as something clean and a way to earn money quickly, it attracts young people, who eventually become gambling addicts. Gambling addiction also leads to crimes and mental illness to people who fall prey to this trap.

Legalised gambling might also lead to fraud and corruption. Gambling is a fast-growing industry in the world and if legalised it has an impact on the government. The government is majorly addicted to revenue earnings from this kind of industry and state-run lotteries. There is recently a numerous case of fraud and corruption in state-run lotteries across the world, so in India where corruption is like an inevitable part of the administration, it would have a great impact and would eventually add on to the existing evils of corruption.

What Steps Government Should Take If Gambling Is To Be Legalised?

The debate over the legalisation of gambling in India traces its root back to the age of mythology and epics. Indian lawmakers now have decided to not legalize gambling except some parts of the country. But now the winds of change seem to be gathering momentum, as there are possibilities of legalisation of gambling and betting in India.

The 276th report of the law commission talked about the possibility of legalising gambling in the whole country with some rules and regulations. But the legalisation of gambling in a country like India is not an easy task. The government has to make certain provisions, amendments, and enact some rules and regulations before making any move ahead.

Some of the steps that the government might take are:
  • Firstly, there would be a need to make an amendment in the constitution regarding gambling as it is under the purview of the state list. So, it should firstly, be put under concurrent lists so that the parliament can legislate on the subject without facing any hindrances.
     
  • Secondly, to protect the interest of people and to prevent any harm, the government should restrict the number of transactions that can be made in a specified period, and also there should be a check upon the stakes involved by linking the accounts with either PAN/AADHAAR card.
     
  • Thirdly, to prevent financial burdens on the states who wish to permit casinos and other gambling activities, the government should allow FDI in this sector. So, that investments can be made in the respective states for the infrastructure etc. and this will also lead to growth in tourism and the states would be able to generate more employment and revenues.
     
  • Necessary infrastructure like police machinery and prosecutors or grievance redressal mechanisms should be set up at both state and national levels by the government to ensure that the rules and regulations are perfectly implemented and also to ensure that the perpetrators are punished.

Conclusion
In the recent past, the law commission has overwhelmingly supported the legalisation of gambling in India. The arguments which were put forward were like, the inability of the government to curb such a large scale illegally operated gambling industry, government losing the opportunity for earning high revenues, and employment generation.

So, they concluded that the only way to solve this problem is to legalise gambling. Though the arguments were worth thinking about, but there is no guarantee that legalising gambling would be as beneficial as projected. Legalising gambling activities would not only demand a higher legal framework for regulating betting activities but also for other nefarious activities like drugs, prostitutes, etc. So, the concerned authorities should thoroughly go through the pros and cons of legalising gambling sector because there decision will have a great impact on the society.

End-Notes:
  1. Edmund Burke." AZQuotes.com. Wind and Fly LTD on the Internet at https://www.azquotes.com/quote/842529 (last accessed on June 03, 2020)
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Over 10,000 employed in private gambling industries in California and Indiana in 2017 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/over-10000-employed-in-private-gambling-industries-in-california-and-indiana-in-2017.htm (last accessed on June 03, 2020)

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